Fight Negativity and Hunt for the Good Stuff Instead
Do you dwell on the bad and forget to notice the good? Could you easily name several stressful, frustrating or just outright bad things that have happened in the last couple of days? Do you, or someone you know, tend to vent off a list of grievances and irritations at the end of a long day? Are you feeling a lot of anxiety and sadness? Our tendency to focus on the negative is a natural process of our brains, but we can do something about it.
What is the negativity bias?
All people share something called the “negativity bias.” The negativity bias is our tendency as humans to notice and emphasize the things that are wrong before we notice and emphasize things that are right. There's nothing wrong with focusing on things that aren’t going well…except when that's all that we're focused on. We also need to take the time to focus on and appreciate those things that are going right.
Why do we need to make room for what’s right?
When we focus on those things that are going well, we experience positive emotions like joy, gratitude, interest, serenity, and love. Experiencing positive emotions allows us to think more creatively, take other people's perspectives and make novel mental connections. Take the research on gratitude, for example. Gratitude exercises lead to benefits like better health, better sleep, feeling calm, lower depression, greater life satisfaction, more optimal performance, and better relationships.
How do you fight the negativity bias?
STEP 1: Hunt
Go out in the world and deliberately choose to examine your environment from the standpoint of what is right. Each day, name three things that were good about that day (big or small). You don’t have to turn something bad into something good, just hunt for the good that is already out there. If you have a hard time naming three good things, it is likely the negativity bias is at work and even more reason for you to practice this skill.
Step 2: Reflect
When you name each good thing, take a moment to relive the moment – paint a vivid picture in your mind and reflect on it. Some possible reflections could include:
- Why are those experiences good?
- Why do those good things matter to you?
- Are there things that you did to set the conditions for those good things to occur?
- Are there things you might do in the future to set the conditions for those good things to occur again?